President in diplomatic row with Israel envoy
President Michael D Higgins has become embroiled in an embarrassing diplomatic gaffe with the Israeli Embassy over claims that his office failed to organise a farewell meeting for the country's departing ambassador, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The Israeli embassy claims that the President's office failed to organise a customary final meeting with Ambassador Boaz Modai before he leaves his post in Dublin today.
The embassy said it "regretted" that the meeting did not take place as previous ambassadors had enjoyed "fruitful" engagements with Irish presidents prior to leaving Ireland.
Mr Modai's officials claimed that they followed the usual protocol in formally notifying the Department of Foreign Affairs of his impending departure more than two months ago, with the expectation that a farewell meeting would be arranged.
However, the President's office last night said it had never received a request from the department and insisted that Mr Higgins would have met with the Israeli Ambassador if it had.
"Should such a request be made, it will of course be treated positively, consistent with the President's courteous and professional approach to the entire Diplomatic Corps," the office said, adding that all requests for meetings from ambassadors had been facilitated this year.
The Department of Foreign Affairs insisted that it had not received a formal request from the embassy for a "farewell call" to the Áras.
However, it added that once the President became aware that Mr Modai wished to meet him, a visit was offered and is "currently being arranged".
Nevertheless, in a statement to the Irish Independent, the Israeli Embassy insisted that a request was sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs in May.
"The Ambassador's date of departure was officially conveyed through the usual diplomatic channels more than two months ago, with the purpose of facilitating a meeting between the President and Ambassador Modai," it stated.
"The Embassy of Israel regrets that this meeting did not take place. Previous ambassadors of Israel have enjoyed fruitful meetings with former Presidents of Ireland prior to their departure from Ireland."
Writing in the 'Sunday Independent' last weekend, Mr Modai said he was leaving his post with "fond memories" of Irish hospitality.
The Ambassador said he and his family were "touched" by the "genuine warmth" of the reception while in Ireland.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan attended a farewell lunch hosted by Mr Modai and the department also held a reception marking the ambassador's departure.